Start the new year with the new Canadian food guide

Avocados with other fruits and vegetables (Flickr photo - U.S. Department of Agriculture - )

2019 brought a lot of changes to the health world including technological advances and perspective shifts, but arguably the largest change Canadians saw this year is the update to the Canadian food guide. The new guide brings a change that Canadians had yet to see since the document’s inception in 1944. Interestingly enough, this change has been a long time coming, following in the steps of Brazil which currently holds the world’s gold standard for food guides.

Unlike food guides of other countries, the Brazil food guide, introduced in 2014, was born out of a need for a new paradigm of looking not just at food, but also eating as a whole. It encompasses the idea of food as a social tool, and considers the emotions attached with eating. Brazil did away with math and equations of nutrition (calories, carbs, and counting each) and introduced a true set of guidelines to embrace food and the culture of food within a healthy lifestyle.

Brazil’s new guidelines created a pathway for other countries to follow, and while it’s been in place for several years now, 2019 has finally seen the research, development, and publication all over the world.

The new Canadian food guide has followed suit, abandoning the rainbow arches, pyramids, and serving numbers that we’ve seen since childhood, in favour of a realistic plate view with portioned examples. The new guide takes a large leap away from the rule book style that Canadians have been using, and is written as an actual guideline. The food guide now has a focus on macronutrient groups (fats, carbs, proteins, water), rather than “food categories” (grains, meats, dairy). It also introduces a teaching style that focuses on more than the specifics of what you put in your mouth, but also the culture around food, including social eating, dining out vs. in, and grocery shopping.

This food guide comes at the perfect time, as diets themselves have changed in the last several years. Veganism, vegetarianism, gluten free, keto, and more, have risen in popularity adding complications to creating specific sets of rules. The flexibility of the new guideline is a valuable tool for every diet. For example, instead of meats/fish and beans/legumes being in separate categories, they’re now both considered “protein foods”, which creates a multifunctional tool for specialty diets or preferences that may not reflect a traditional pyramid pattern.

Noticeably absent from the food guide is dairy (with the exception of plain yogurt), which caused a stir amongst many Canadians who include milk and cheese as part of a normal every day diet. The question on its release became “is dairy not recommended?”, and while this is a big change to the Canadian guide, it’s important to remember that the 60+ page document is not a rule book, and teaches Canadians how to not eat black and white (like the old guidelines), but rather provides the tools for healthy eating on a grey scale with much variety.


The new language in the guide also creates seamless communication between health professionals and the general public. Advice given in your dietician’s office now connects with what the official food guide is showing, and furthermore, the language reflects the same terms you will hear from your health care professional.

The new food guide provides simple and easy to understand advice that now, for the first time ever in Canada, outlines more than just the basics of foods. Similar to Brazil, the guide focuses on advice like cooking more meals at home, eating in a social setting, and being wary of food marketing. It also educates on using food labels. All of these things are to give Canadians more education on how food works, building on the trend that knowledge is power, or in this case, health. This document is likely going to be a work in progress as trends change and research develops. However, given the rise in eating disorders and fad diets, it is an important tool to keep in any home. For more information on the changes to the Canadian food guide, or diet and nutrition advice, contact your dietician, nutritionist, or health care practitioner.